The Cards looked sharp and rested Saturday against Robert Vaden's of Alabama-Birmingham in an 82-62 victory. As he said he was going to do earlier in the week, Coach Pitino shook-up the starting line-up and altered playing-time which turned out to be successful.
This victory was impressive, but could be a case of fool's gold. Mike Davis' Blazers had only 6 scholarship players and looked like they'd been stranded in a desert towards the end of the second half. Robert Vaden is a player and I'd hate to see the Blazers if they lost him. His shooting went cold in the second frame due to fatigue, but the shooting display he put on in the first half was impressive. Good to get back on the winning track even if it's at the expense of a shorthanded team.
The point guard battle between Edgar Sosa and Andre McGee was so brutal that Pitino decided that both shouldn't start. Instead, Jerry Smith got the ball at the point and Preston Knowles took his spot at the 2. This is my ideal backcourt because the tenacity on defense is unmatched by any other combination. Also, it gives Terrence Williams the ability to handle the ball more up top with two good shooters to kick it out to on the wings. Sosa's playing time is diminishing by the second. He played only 6 minutes and to be brutally honest his play wasn't missed. As we all know, Sosa has the potential to be a high-caliber point guard. Yet, if he doesn't buy into the team concept there is no reason for him to play. This might have been a wake-up call to Edgar from his coach - We don't need you to win. On the other hand, McGee answered the bell by scoring 13 points on 3-6 from beyond the arch in 28 minutes. "Buckets" McGee has always been better off the ball. Hopefully if Smith, Knowles or T-Will run the offense smoothly he will get more off-the-ball opportunities.
I hope T-Will's shooting performance was a product of the tinkering of his jumpshot and not just luck (which it could be). It is easy to tell when he gets that elbow in and when he lets it flair out. Len Elmore made a great point about the shot-doctoring on ESPN's telecast saying, "It takes shooting 100's, even 1000's of shots a day to change your body's muscle memory". Well, Williams is the type of gym rat that will go to those measures to improve. Everyone knows if T-Will could develop a consistent jumper like what he displayed against UAB (5-8 3's) he would be absolutely deadly. He's already a great defender, slasher and rebounder as well as the team's leader. If his J continues to drop, it adds a new dimension to the team.
- Swopshire for Clark in the starting line-up doesn't really make sense to me. Other than the fact that it gets the others involved early. Coach Pitino has suggested before that Clark would be better off the bench and I did suggest that Swop start in a post after the Gophers loss, however it just doesn't seem right with Clark in a warm-up at tip-off. It looked like E5 took it well which is another sign of his maturation process and he knows the decision was based on the team getting better, not lack of performance. Swop had a great game - letting the game come to him without disrupting the offense. The drop-off between the 2 is pretty big, but Swop gives Earl the opportunity to stay fresh without hurting the team.
- Coach Pitino's main beefs with Samardo have been his inability to be active on the glass and pass out of the double team. Although UAB had no one taller than Mardo, he looked tremendously better rebounding the ball and throwing his body around. As the game progressed, Samuels began to recognize the double-team and find open shooters. As great as he has been, it must be noted that Mardo is only a freshman and will have growing pains like the games against Ole Miss and Minnesota. Nonetheless, it looks like he is starting to take heed to his coaches demands. I aslo like how he wasn't pouting after a call or miss like he has previously. I can't wait to see him eat Patrick Patterson's lunch Sunday.
- The losses to Western and Minnesota made the Cards look vulnerable to the rest of the nation. This game was a step in the right direction. I am convinced that both those games were set up wrong and doomed to be losses. The team was fatigued after the travel problems in Arizona for the Tubby-ball loss, which was a self-admitted scheduling disaster. And after all the trouble Jurich gave Western for cancelling the home/home a few years back, the Toppers were out for blood in a home environment. If anything, they helped Pitino and his staff know which players had the moxy to get through the fire.
-Another solid non-conference opponent comes into the Hall Wednesday in the form of UNLV. The Cards look to repeat the 20 point drubbing they served the Runnin' Rebels last year in Vegas. The Cards were without both Padgett and Palacios in that game last year, so they basically have the same team back and they're playing in our house. The only problem would be the team overlooking the Rebs in anticipation for KenSUCKy on Sunday. I'm going out on a limb and saying if the Cards show up they should win both games this week by a combined 50 points. That's a big if though...
IT'S RIVALRY WEEK BABY... TIME TO FEAST ON SOME MILDCAT